Who owns this problem? Why they won’t stop.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Problem and problem solving

Problem-solving.

Why do some people refuse to change and how do I make them?

Many of the questions to this blog are about getting others to change. This person or that is driving you crazy and you want them to change but they are just refusing.

The reason you may be getting nowhere on resolving the situation just may be that you are trying to solve the wrong problem.

One method for resolving problem behavior that is taught in parenting classes is to look for the ownership of the problem. Here is a simple “child” problem and afterwards we will apply this to more adult issues.

Mother goes into the child’s room and it is a mess. Mom yells “you are such a lazy slob, clean this room up.” This is a bad approach for two reasons. Calling the child a slob may establish a core identity that they are a slob. If that is what you are, why try to change? Being called names repeatedly encourages people to give up.

Who owns this problem? Why mom does of course. The child’s room is messy, mom does not like it and it is upsetting mom. More precisely, mom is “choosing to upset herself” over this issue. She could just give up as many mothers do and accept that kid’s rooms are often messy.

Now, what if grandma is coming and it is important to mom that the room be cleaned up? You all know how grandma is.

The solution – make the problem the child’s. Mom now says “if you do not get this room cleaned up by the time grandma arrives you will not be going to the store with her,” or some other suitable negative consequence.

Now, who owns the problem? Why the child does of course. They need to get this job done in time to get grandma to take them shopping and buy them stuff. Now the child is motivated.

An aside here, make very sure that the phrase “room is a mess and needs to be cleaned up” is operationalized. The child needs to know exactly what you want done. They would be glad to throw all those dirty clothes in the closet and call the room clean. A specific list of things to be done before grandma arrives would be helpful here.

Now the more adult version of this issue.

Lots of commenters to this blog ask about getting others to change. I see this in the search engine terms also. Everyone wants someone else to change. How do you do that?

There are techniques to help others change or encourage that change and I have described those methods in a post on “Getting others to change.” There is also a series of posts about “How people change.”

Before you launch into that changing effort you need to ask yourself one question.

Who owns this problem?

If the person is isolating in their room, depressed and thinking of suicide by all means intervene. Professional help is called for here.

But what if your partner does not like to go out and you do?

In that case, you own this problem.

Most of the times we want others to change it is because their behavior bothers us. We own those problems. We can talk with the person, make changes in our behavior that encourage the change we want, but the other person still may decide they do not want to change.

If a behavior is not interfering with a person’s ability to work, have relationships with family or friends and is not making them unhappy, why then we professionals don’t see this as a problem for them.

So if the other person is choosing to not change and it is driving you nuts, you need to work on you.

Options here? Acceptance – radical acceptance is a good place to start. Consider changing yourself so you do not “upset yourself” so much. A good place to begin this practice might be with some “Mindfulness,” get centered in the present.

Enjoy the person and the situation for what they are instead of insisting that they change to suit you.

It is next to impossible to change problems that are not yours and most of the time when we try to change others we are trying to get them to solve our problem.

Suggestion – Take another look at the problems in your life and see who really owns them. If you own the problem then begin by changing you.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Creating the changes you need.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Change

Change.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Changing self or others?

So very many people who come into counseling report their major problem is – the behavior of someone else. They ask “How can I get —– to change and stop doing —–.

Recovery literature frequently takes the view that you really can’t change someone else. If they change it will be because they recognize a problem and decide to change. So if 99% of the problem is their fault and only 1% is yours you need to start by working on your one percent.

There are times you can get others to change, but the trick here is that often that change begins with a change in you.

There are four primary change options. Which you chose and how effective it will be will depend on the nature of the change you need. You partner driving you nuts by being a slob is quite different from a child who breaks out all the windows in a house.

1. Change by stop letting it bother you.

Change your thinking and stop letting it upset you. This is easy to say and sometimes difficult to do. If you began by liking a partner who was spontaneous, a free spirit, but now you are upset because they are irresponsible and a slob, recognize that the problem is in you. The very thing that attracted you to them is the thing that is causing the problem.

Anger management techniques, especially that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy technique involving the A-B-C-D-E model can be especially helpful.

Mindfulness training, meditation and relaxation training can also help you to reduce your negative feelings so you can go along with what is happening but not get upset.

2. Help them move through the process of change.

If the other person has the problem and you are doing all you can to accept them but you decide it is they, not you who need to change, you can still help them change by assisting them in moving through the stages of change.

Counselors and professionals are specifically trained in the stages of change model and can help someone move through the process. Take a look at the blog posts on Stages of Change.

3. Create change by changing the dance.

Couples, families and even workplaces get into a predictable way of doing things. Sometimes this works and sometimes it is dysfunctional. Think of the way this dance happens over and over.

Relationships are a lot like a square dance. Everyone moves around the square doing the same things over and over. If one person changes the way they move, starts walking in a different direction the whole square falls apart.

In relationships, we get into predictable patterns. A friend calls with a problem; we spend hours on the phone. We drive over to their house and help them out. Then we realize that we are always helping them, they never have the time or resources to help us.

Next time they call and describe their problem, rather than telling them you will help, tell them wow that is some problem, I am really looking forward to seeing how you solve that one. Then excuse yourself and hang up.

They may escalate the demands for your help by calling again and asking you to do something. Here is where you may need some assertiveness training. But at some point, you may need to tell them that if you keep solving their problems for them they will never learn to solve them on their own. Besides, right now you have problems of your own that need attention.

Once you have changed the dance, the other person will keep pushing you to get back in the old pattern. You will need to keep to the new direction. But eventually, they will stop asking for help. They may even stop inviting you to their problem dance.

But if you lose this “friend” because you put your needs and those of your family first, well they weren’t that good a friend, to begin with. You deserve better than that.

4. Change others using Influence.

Sometimes you need to make others change even when it would be easier and safer to let it go.

If your young child falls on the floor and has a tantrum, you teach him to stop. If your teenager is doing that you need serious intervention. You should not have let it get to this point.

Parents and teachers change kid’s behavior all the time. We use rewards and appropriate non-physical punishment to produce change all the time.

There is a series of posts about how behavioral modification specialists get people to change their behavior. This is not some form of brainwashing or mind control.

You get to drive if you take the required steps including taking some tests. If you drive without a license you may get arrested or your car impounded. Society uses rewards and punishments every day. For rules to work we need to keep enforcing these rules.

If you want to alter behavior in your child or others in your life consider the more subtle uses of behavior modification described in my Changing Others series. Praise you child or your partner when they do well. Make sure that they don’t have to do something wrong to get your attention.

What you attend to you will get more of. Make sure you let those in your life know when they are pleasing you.

See also the posts on

Stages of Change

Changing others by Influencing  

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Changing Others by Influencing.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Changing your life

Time for a life change?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Creating change in others by influencing.

One way we get others to do more of what we want them to do and less of what we wish to avoid is a process called Behavioral Modification.

Here are the links to an ever-growing number of posts on change and how to create it.

Changing others series:

Changing Others – Part One  

Changing others part two

Rewards gone wild – Changing Others Part 3

Why ignoring them doesn’t work – Or does it Part 4

Why Your Child won’t Behave

NO, NO, NO – Learning NO!

For more on the process of change see the blog post series “What are the Stages of Change

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What are the stages of change?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Changing your life

Time for a life change?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do people really change?

The stages of change model comes originally from a book titled “Changing For Good” by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente.

This model has been widely applied to substance abuse treatment but is also applicable to mental health, weight loss or even improving test scores in underperforming schools.

We teach this model to beginning students in Substance abuse counseling programs and it is gradually becoming a part of Professional Clinical Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy training.

It is helpful for professionals to understand how it is that people change so we don’t get ahead of or behind our clients in the process of change. This model also helps predict the possibility of relapse and is applied to relapse prevention.

The Stages of Change model is not just for professionals. It is included in the Mental Health First Aid program and is now being taught to clients and consumers.

Below are the links to a series of post I wrote on the stages of change. This is my explanation of the model and some additional insights from Ken Minkhoff at Zia Partners and my fellow Change Agents.

My apologies to Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente if I have in any way distorted their model. For their version read the book. See also materials on Stages of Change at the SAMHSA website.

Stages of Change or How Do We Change Pre-Contemplation

Stages of Change part two – Contemplation

How do People Change? Preparation

Stages of Change – Early Action

Stages of Change – Late Action

Maintenance is a Part of Change

Related posts are at:

Is Relapse a Part of Recovery?

Four Stages of Recovery

Getting some recovery – preventing relapse

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Getting some recovery – preventing relapse

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Urge Surfing Prevents Relapses.

Urge Surfing Prevents Relapses.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do you get this recovery thing?

Moving from being “in the problem” to being “recovered” is a process. Many of the things that will take you from the pain to the solution are simple. That does not mean they are easy. Sometimes healing from the past can be painful also.

In past posts, we have talked about Defining Recovery and how recovery is possible for anyone, and that recovery means having the best life possible not necessarily a cure for your condition.

In another post we looked at Why giving up the drugs and alcohol might not make you any happier. Just trying to not do the negative or dysfunctional behaviors will not be enough. Recovery literature talks a lot about using “recovery tools” (see: Getting your tools dirty) and things like internal and external triggers.

What may be missing are the blueprints for creating recovery.

Reader Sue made the following comment.

How exactly should one get their recovery tools dirty? Giving up something that is bad for one, you do expect to feel better but when you don’t you feel disheartened. What’s left is yourself and your problems. So you read all the self-help books and try and work on yourself but how do you connect the practice to the theory? All those learned responses and ways of coping are very hard to unlearn – is it about keeping a record, making new goals or just trying to get through without going backwards?

There are a lot of recovery processes in use today, 12 step models, CBT & REBT therapy’s, counseling and so on. They all have their place and they all have some common elements. Here are some basic steps for transforming your life from being hopeless and suffering to having a healthy recovery.

1. What is the problem?

You don’t get chemotherapy for depression or a drinking problem. Drug and alcohol treatment is not very effective for cancer. Make sure you are treating the real problem.

For most people who come to treatment for an addiction problem, the drugs, and the alcohol is not the problem! The drugs and alcohol are their solutions. The real problem is that their coping method, drinking or drugging to ease the pain, is not working. The problem has become that they don’t know how to live without the drugs and alcohol.

Part of defining problems is to admit that your efforts to control the problem have not been working. This is sometimes referred to as “Powerlessness” which is not the same thing as being helpless. Applying this concept of powerlessness to ways to cope with family members who have the problem was the subject of another blog post.

Mental illnesses can play the same role. Depression, anxiety, and dissociation can all function to avoid a painful life experience. The current problem, the one you need to solve first is how to live life without drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety or any other negative coping mechanisms.

Most of the time we think the solution to drugs and alcohol is to just stop doing them. This rarely works. Once deprived of your coping mechanism people just suffer. The most effective treatment is to replace the substances with something positive. With clients that I work with we start by creating a Happy Emotional Life Plan (HELP). As a counselor, I believe I am in the happy life business.

With emotional issues, as with eating disorders, it is a little more difficult. You can’t just give up sadness or anxiety and you have to eat and stay healthy. You need to learn to feel feelings without having them control you.

2. Are you ready to change? What help will you need?

Self-help groups talk about recovery being a “we” program not an “I” program. You need to be willing to accept help and support from any source that is healthy. Counselors, Therapists, 12 step groups all can assist in your recovery.

3. Change requires moving through a process

Twelve-step programs refer to “working” the steps or “taking” the steps. Counseling involves some self-examination. To really change requires a lot of action steps. For a detailed description of the process see the series of posts on “Stages of Change”

Pre-contemplation
Contemplation
Preparation or determination
Early Action
Late Action
Maintenance

4. Even after you have changed there is more work to do.

For change to be lasting you will need to do some sort of maintenance. Our old behavior patterns are deeply grooved into the structure of our life. It takes work to avoid falling back into the same old groove.

5. Progress, not perfection.

People in early recovery try to do everything now. They want to do recovery, get a job, find a new relationship and generally create the perfect life all in one week. Learn to take things “one day at a time.”

Relapse, in my view, may not be a required “part of recovery, ” but it happens often enough that it is nothing to beat yourself up about. If you relapse on substance or depression, just get back into recovery as quickly as possible and move on.

The goal, as the old saying goes is “progress not perfection.” Keep your eyes on the gains you are making, give yourself credit for anything well done and try to build on small successes until you create the bigger ones.

Life in recovery is a sort of experiment. We try things and learn from our efforts. Try to avoid experiments that result in a lot of pain or require time behind bars, but you will have to make choices and some of those choices will not work out the way you would have hoped.

This is a real life, sometimes I like it sometimes I don’t. Learning to sit and feel badly and know this will pass, but I can tolerate this feeling without using my negative coping mechanism.

So yes Sue recovery is about trudging forward, trying on new behaviors and sometimes it is hard or painful and sometimes we fall back but always keep track of what works and what doesn’t and keep moving forward.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.